TEMPERANCE — Voters in the Bedford school district may be going to the polls in May to decide on raising taxes to repair and upgrade buildings.
In a unanimous vote, the board of education last week instructed Superintendent Mark Kleinhans to move forward with a plan to address the facilities’ critical needs, deferred maintenance, and desired enhancements at a cost of up to $63 million — funds that would be raised by the sale of 30-year bonds, depending on which route the board decided to take.
At the special meeting, the board also retained a real-estate consultant, bond counsel, and financial adviser, all of whom would be paid from the proceeds of any bond sale.
“The goal here is that we are looking at a May election,” President Michael Smith said, stressing that circumstances could change.
Matthew Hiser, the bond attorney engaged by the board, said the action taken at the meeting merely started the preliminary qualification process with the Michigan Department of Treasury, which must sign off on any final plan, and did not obligate the school district to do anything.
Mr. Hiser said there would be a Jan. 10 meeting with treasury department officials that he and Mr. Kleinhans will attend, and a Jan. 16 special board meeting to approve the final version of the district’s preliminary qualification application with the state.
The board then would meet Feb. 20, five days before the filing deadline with the Monroe County clerk for the May 6 ballot, to vote on adopting the resolution calling the election.
Board member Ron Koch expressed concern at the tight timeline, saying, “typically, this can take up to a year.” But Richard J. Naughton, the board’s public finance adviser, said other districts had followed similar schedules.
Greg VanKirk, a board real-estate consultant from Plante Moran CRESA LLC, noted that the project involved mechanical systems, roofs, and parking lots, which typically attract less community and staff participation than, for instance, seeking funds for a new high school.
He said most Michigan school districts seeking levy money next year would prefer to avoid appearing alongside the gubernatorial election on the November ballot.
The board has settled on two options: fix some of the buildings’ “critical needs,” as identified by Plante Moran in an extensive building-by-building assessment, or take a more costly path “to reinvent the district,” a plan that would involve demolishing Douglas Road and Jackman Road elementary schools, razing the former Temperance Road Elementary, which was closed in June, and building a new $15 million elementary school.
The former Smith Road Elementary, which closed as a school building in 2011, would get $7 million worth of improvements, including six additional classrooms, and return to service. Monroe Road Elementary would have $1 million of critical needs addressed, including a reconfigured front entrance for better security.
The cost of the bare bones “Plan A” is expected to be $27.6 million, while the more ambitious “Plan B” would carry a $63 million price tag. The board will effectively decide which plan to pursue Jan. 16.